Classic Film : What classics did you see last week? (6/15-6/21)

Re: Souls at Sea

I'd managed to forget it until your rude reminder

As long as no one claims he was in full slap for THE WILD GEESE or Guilaroff fashioned his locks for the scrums in THIS SPORTING LIFE I'll be OK

Tell mama, Tell mama all....

Re: Souls at Sea

Maybe we should think of it as the mark of Caitlyn.....

Tell mama, Tell mama all....

Re: Souls at Sea

Which would explain the real reason he got thrown out of West Point in Major Dundee.

"Security - release the badgers."

Musical riots, Desi and Lucy and ineffectual cops and judges

Mainly remembered as one of the trio of wildly expensive films that led to the downfall of British production powerhouse Goldcrest (taking the short-lived Virgin Films with it and not doing Palace Pictures' precarious finances any favours either), Absolute Beginners is one of those huge box-office disasters that not only never seems to have been re-evaluated or developed a cult reputation but has pretty much dropped off the map altogether. That's certainly the case in the UK, where it rapidly went from being a potential new direction for British cinema to a career-killing flop that has never even been released on DVD there and has only had two late late night TV screenings in the past twenty years.

To a degree that's because the film has more than its fair share of flaws, but it also has one of the most strikingly vivid looks of any British film in decades – perhaps unsurprising since Palace Pictures were instrumental in introducing the 80s French Cinéma du Look of directors like Luc Besson, Jean-Jacques Beineix and Leos Carax to British cinema audiences. And Absolute Beginners is a film all about the look, both in terms of its style as it offers an exaggerated version of 50s CinemaScope and vivid Eastmancolor, and subject as its young lovers find themselves seduced into selling out the teenage revolution and turning it into a marketable commodity. Even the film's huge key set is a marvellous recreation of late 50s Soho that's at once stylised yet instantly recognisable, even coming complete with real-life local characters like the sandwich board man Stanley Owen Green advertising his ‘Less lust from less protein' leaflets who was a fixture in the area well into the early 90s.

Unfortunately that emphasis on the look also applies to the two leads, Eddie O'Connell – who's certainly better than the atrocious reviews he got that killed his career before it even started, if only because it's impossible to give the worst performance in a film co-starring both Patsy Kensit and David Bowie – and Kensit, who somehow managed to spin her terrible performance into a surprisingly durable career by pretty much embracing her character's hunger for fame at all costs for real. It's filled with figures from the late 50s and 60s, both real – James Fox, Sylvia Sims, Alan ‘Fluff' Freeman, Mandy Rice-Davies, Jess Conrad - and gossamer-thinly disguised characters representing the likes of notorious slum landlord Peter Rachman or impresario Larry Parnes (seen picking his next idol based purely on whether the suit fits) - but it's not always entirely successful weaving them into the kind of social history-cum-phantasmagoria that it's aiming for. It's not that it hasn't been thought through, with its hero so intoxicated by the look and feel of the brave new world of colour and music surrounding him that he doesn't notice or take seriously the growing tensions around him that will erupt into a race riot, more that the execution doesn't match the ambition as realistic violence turns into stylised dance numbers and climaxes in… well, a reggae street party complete with the film's worst number courtesy of Smiley Culture (despite the wildly anachronistic mix of musical styles throughout the film the only one that genuinely feels completely out of place).

Kicking off with a tracking shot that tries to outdo Michael Kidd's energetic opening sequence from Guys and Dolls as it introduces the low lives and high-as-a-kite fliers of London's Soho, at times it's like Fellini on speed directed a serious Cliff Richard musical, a kind of La Dolce Expresso Bongo. With the exception of Bowie's title number the songs are mostly forgettable, with the vision behind their execution seemingly more important to the director. And Julian Temple certainly had a real sense of vision, but he's not always entirely sure of how to deliver it. The film went through several writers doing constant rewrites and then through several re-edits to get it down from its epic first cut, but the problem is less that it feels truncated in the process as that it lacks a compelling story or characters to truly carry it forward and take most audiences along with it and that the individual musical setpieces often feel like they could have been better edited to make the most of the imaginative design and choreography, whether it's Ray Davies turning a blind eye to wife Davies' infidelity with the lodgers in a cutaway house set like a doll's house with the front walls removed or the Sinatra-esque Bowie's advertising guru dancing on a giant typewriter or spinning globe.

It's a film full of great ideas that don't work as well as they should but which still leaves you impressed that at such a bleak and unimaginative time for British cinema someone was at least making the effort to break the mould. Sometimes an ambitious failure can be more interesting than an unambitious success, and while you can't say that Absolute Beginners is a success, it's certainly a fascinating failure. And how many musicals would even think of ending with a race riot?

Twilight Time's new limited edition Blu-ray offers a spectacular widescreen transfer that does full justice to the film's visuals but which sadly carries over the big problem of the film's theatrical mix that saw the dialogue mixed considerably lower than the musical numbers, making you rely on the subtitles at times.

There's not much more than colour, a 95-minute running time and some second unit photography that separates The Long, Long Trailer from I Love Lucy: it could just as easily be called The One Where Lucy and Ricky Buy a Trailer. Even their character names sound the same, with Tacey and Nicky being about as close as MGM could get to Lucy and Ricky without having to pay royalties to the show. It's a likeable and amusing satire on the perils of the then-latest craze of trailer living, with Lucy and Desi playing newlyweds who can't buy a house because his job takes him all over the country but can afford – or think they can afford – a downpayment on a trailer. Naturally it turns out to be a money pit, and just naturally the various disasters that befall them as they try to adapt to their home on wheels leads them to fight and make up and fight and threaten to break up again (so far, so completely unlike a Lucy episode). There's no doubt how it'll end up and few real belly laughs, but it's a pleasant vacation with the stars doing what they do best.

DVD extras are the original trailer (including a brief deleted scene), a Pete Smith Specialty Ain't It Aggravatin'? that's curiously been given a widescreen transfer and a surprisingly poor Tex Avery cartoon, Dixieland Droopy.

Despite its typically misleadingly sensationalist Americanized title Killer Cop promising an action packed 70s poliziotteschi, Luciano Ercoli's La Polizia ha le Mani Legate (The Police Have Their Hands Tied) is actually a low-key vaguely political thriller that's short on action and slow getting to the point despite its then topical subject matter, based very loosely on the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing. Claudio Cassinelli's bookish cop is drawn into a vague terrorist plot when his drugs investigation is violently interrupted by a bombing in a hotel lobby that leaves a dozen dead, the bombers who botched their target on the run from their well-heeled superiors and Arthur Kennedy's incorruptible but ineffectual judge spending more time trying to avoid being entangled with or being spied on by Italy's intelligence service. When a luckless friend (Franco Fabrizi) is killed because he can identify one of them, Cassinelli goes against orders to mount his own investigation, but since he dresses like a French New Wave film director of the 60s, reads what must be the most heavily abridged version of Moby Dick ever published and drives a gas-canister fuelled car that doesn't mean taking the law into his own hands and demonstrating a particular set of violent skills, or at least not until the last reel to give the film at least one shootout to put in the trailers. Luckily one of the bombers has a disability that helps almost track him down and even more luckily Cassinelli's girlfriend knows him, but, this being the 70s, corruption, mistrust and conflicting agendas doom the investigation from start to finish.

All of which really should be more interesting than it plays out on screen, but while it has its moments it's crippled by the lethargic pacing that simply draws attention to how much time it devotes to setting up plot strands that really don't go anywhere. It doesn't help that the film's most engaging character takes an early bath in the first third. Stelvio Cipriani's score tries to give the film a bit of energy and some amusement that wasn't a factor back in 1975 is provided by the fact that one corrupt official is a dead ringer for Sepp Blatter, but it's a case that's no more rewarding for audiences than it is for the film's thwarted investigators.

Raro Video's Blu-ray release is a mixed bag, alternating a few scenes with excellent detail and others that are just okay, but offers both the Italian and English dubbed soundtracks (the latter with Arthur Kennedy voices himself, something of a rarity for visiting American stars, and featuring English subtitles for scenes cut from the American release prints) and an interview with production manager Alessandro Calosci.

"Security - release the badgers."

Re: Musical riots, Desi and Lucy and ineffectual cops and judges

The Long, Long Trailer reminds me of Dragnet 1954 - where you have a movie that's enjoyable but not as good as some of the best TV episodes. Of course, as you say, its not supposed to be an I Love Lucy movie.

I assume Desilu owned the copyright to "I Love Lucy" so they no doubt got well paid, Nicky and Tracy notwithstanding.

Desi and Lucy

There's probably a convoluted story behind that - maybe a studio as classy as MGM just didn't want to be seen as making a TV spinoff? Apparently Desi Arnaz had tried to option the book it was based on but MGM beat him to it and initially didn't want to use TV stars they figured the public wouldn't pay for because they could see for free. It seems it was only when William Holden passed on the film and MGM downgraded the budget that they relented - and ended up with a huge hit.

"Security - release the badgers."

Re: Desi and Lucy

William Holden? Really?

Who was the wife supposed to be, Grace Kelly?

Re: Desi and Lucy

No idea, but in the book the couple are middle aged and on holiday (the book sounds like a trailer version of Mr Hobbs takes a Vacation without the kids). Kelly was under contract at MGM, but considering she turned down everything they developed for her and only wanted to be loaned out to other studios I wouldn't have been surprised if she was considered, though. It was only when Lucy and Desi were cast that the characters became newlyweds on their honeymoon.

"Security - release the badgers."

Absolute Beginners

I always felt Julien Temple deserved a bigger career, Absolute Beginners showed so much promise that never got delivered on.

Sadly, his biggest contribution to cinema to date is Juno Temple.

There is no truth to be found hidden in the word "I".

Julien Temple

His career has been great, if you move in the circles I do

The Filth and the Fury (2000)

Oil City Confidential (2009)

Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (2007)

Bloke is very much highly thought of here

The Spikeopath - Hospital Number 217

Re: Julien Temple

Oh sure, the man can make a fine music-documentary, and it helps that he was often a first-hand witness, but he never again was given the opportunity to splash around with a big budget, which I think is a loss.

There is no truth to be found hidden in the word "I".

Re: Julien Temple

Though I had nothing to do with it, I was working in the Novello Lodge cutting rooms at the same time they were trying to get Absolute Beginners into releasable form (the first cut was around four hours), and the reason the film was so wildly overbudget and so difficult to get a locked cut on was pretty clear: Temple was trying to cram way too many great ideas into the one film to really do any of them justice and the fact that four companies and numerous producers were involved meant there was never any one person with a clear, focussed vision to keep him on track. It also meant that with so many different people signing the checks from one week to the next, Temple was the one figure people could pin down as being behind the film, and the fact that he was remarkably calm and benign in the midst of all the chaos while everyone else was scrambling for the lifeboats was interpreted as being more than a little cavalier with other people's money (though the reality was that with four companies involved, the risk was so widely spread that none of them got hurt quite as badly as the press made out, though they did all bleed).

While it certainly pales into insignificance compared to the massive problems and petulant tantrums with Hugh Hudson's Revolution at the same time, Temple didn't have previous successes in narrative filmmaking to fall back on, and the rep as a director whose idea of a film was a bunch of wildly overpriced music videos sellotaped together with no plot stuck at a time when even directors who came in on time and on budget on modestly successful films couldn't get work (only 27-30 British films were being made a year at the time, nearly all of them at a sixth of the price of Absolute Beginners). It's a shame because he was a genuinely nice guy and with more discipline and sympathetic guidance his career as a fiction filmmaker could have developed into something much more interesting. Maybe his problem was that he just wasn't born French...

"Security - release the badgers."

Absolute Beginners

"if only because it's impossible to give the worst performance in a film co-starring both Patsy Kensit and David Bowie"

I've resisted 'The Hunger' every opportunity I got, but I have to believe - as a staunch Ziggy-era Bowie fan - that 'The Man Who Fell To Earth' really was the role he was born to play, or maybe he was just playing himself. Perhaps that could also be said of Art Garfunkel, in 'Bad Timing', and Jagger in 'Performance', although to be fair to Garfunkel, it was a good acting performance.
But 'godawful' doesn't do justice to the cardboard depths Bowie plumbed for 'Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence' - and his Japanese pop star co-star might have been even worse.

I don't think I managed to sit through all of 'Absolute Beginners', although maybe it needed to be seen on the big screen!

"Where's the rest of me??... Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.!"

Bowie Fell to Earth

As much as Roeg's visual style, one thing that leaps out about The Man Who Fell to Earth watching it again is just how perfect Bowie is for the role. Original choice Peter O'Toole may have had the angelic looks and been the better actor (though Bowie's surprisingly good here), but Bowie has a presence that brings something unique to the film. There's an otherness to the part, and the fact that he's living an onscreen life that may not have been so far removed from his real one at that time doesn't hurt either. It's nowhere near as effective, but there's some of that in The Hunger, but generally that's such a dismal exercise in style over coherence that it can only be recommended to Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve's fans, and most of them just stop about halfway and wear out the rewind and pause buttons on the remote

It's when you try to cast Bowie as anyone vaguely normal that that otherworldliness translates into stilted delivery and enough wood in the acting to build an ark. It's telling that he's so easily not only outacted by Takeshi Kitano in Merry Christmas, but the non-English speaker Kitano's delivery of English words is probably more natural than Bowie's as well.

"Security - release the badgers."

Re: Bowie Fell to Earth

Yeah; Kitano acted him off the screen - and maybe everybody else, too.
And agreed about their respective English delivery.

Funny, watching the Roeg doc on BBC Four last night, and the clip from 'Performance'
Kitano could've probably did similar to Jagger, also!

"Where's the rest of me??... Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.!"

Re: What classics did you see last week? (6/15-6/21)

A Dog of Flanders (1935)--a little creaky, but O.P. Heggie is one of those
character actors who always adds something special to a film.

Good Neighbor Sam (1964)--saw this several times before, but it's always
fun to watch, mainly for its glimpse of 1960s suburbia, the culture of the time,
and that Hertz commercial. Jack Lemmon wasn't happy about making this, but it's
one of my favorite Lemmon movies.

The Face Behind the Mask (1941)--saw this one before; Peter Lorre wasn't
happy about having to make this B-movie, but it's good enough for a re-watch.

The Twelve Chairs (1970)--a Mel Brooks film which seems to be often overlooked by many Brooks fans, maybe because the humor is a little more muted
than usual. Frank Langella is arguably the handsomest actor ever to appear in a Mel Brooks film (maybe that's not saying all that much, but still....).

I'm not crying, you fool, I'm laughing!


Good Neighbor Sam

I have seen Good Neighbor Sam once, and I thought that it was a fun movie. Not sure why Jack Lemmon wasn't happy about doing this movie.

💕 JimHutton (1934-79) and ElleryQueen 👍

Re: Sam / Twelve Chairs

One of the most striking things I recall from Good Neighbor Sam is both his respective love interests showing their affection for him by cooking big feasts - both of which he has to eat. Yes, "culture of the time" indeed; I could hardly imagine such an incident in a contemporary romantic comedy.

I have always thought that availability was the big issue with The Twelve Chairs receiving less recognition than the rest of Mel's films. I don't know if it is any different where you reside, but in Australia the film is only attainable as part of a Brooks boxset and cannot be purchased as a film on its own. I can't say that the film is a particular favourite of mine, but the "hope for the best, expect the worse" song is highly memorable and a pretty apt slogan for life too.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Naughty Action Lift Summer Green January

Naughty Marietta (1935) / Robert Z. Leonard and W.S. Van Dyke. Soprano Jeanette MacDonald and baritone Nelson Eddy co-starred for the first time in this film version of Victor Herbert's 1910 operetta. The film only uses five of the 20-some songs from the play and supplements the movie with six other Herbert songs with new lyrics by Gus Kahn. Kahn also wrote new lyrics for some of the original “Marietta” numbers. The plot, also, is only verrry loosely based on Herbert. MacDonald is a French Princess in 18th century France who is destined for a loveless arranged marriage (by her dominating uncle) that would result in become the King's mistress. She switches places with a servant who was shipping out with other women to the French province of Louisiana to become wives of the pioneer men who had gone before. When almost there, she and the other women are captured by pirates and then rescued by the mercenary army led by Richard Warrington (Eddy). Warrington impresses her with his singing but turns her off with his arrogance. He romances her as she continually retreats until her new identity is threatened by the arrival of her uncle (Douglas Dumbrille). She goes to Warrington as the only person she can trust. And, yes, just in case you were about to ask, MacDonald and Eddy sing “Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life.” And quite spectacularly, too. For comic relief, Frank Morgan is the befuddled Royal Governor and a shockingly young Elsa Lanchester is his all-knowing, all-seeing jealous wife. It is great – but hard to believe at this remove - that operatic singing voices were once popular in Hollywood movies. I once heard the Deanna Durbin vs. Judy Garland films were really a operatic soprano voice vs. a Broadway musical theater voice. Well, we all know who won.

Action in the North Atlantic (1943) / Lloyd Bacon. “Action” is the right word to describe this WWII saga about the Merchant Marines and their mission to deliver war machines and supplies from the U.S. across the ocean to the front lines while trying to avoid German U-Boats. The film opens with a 20-minute hard driving action scene as the freighter commanded by Captain Raymond Massey and his First Officer Humphrey Bogart is torpedoed, burned, and sunk by a Nazi submarine. Massey vows to make them pay as he, Bogey, and what is left of their crew float for days on a raft before being discovered. There follows a short interlude on shore that shows Massey at home with his wife (Ruth Gordon, loving and sensitive) clearly feeling the emotional effects of his combat experience – what we would now call PTSD. We also see Bogart, drinking hard while making a play for barroom singer Julie Bishop, and other members of the crew waiting to find another vessel to ship out on. It is during this relatively short sequence that we get all the “why we fight” propaganda, and then it is back to action and nail-biting suspense on the high seas. This was Bogart's first assignment after “Casablanca,” but he didn't mind because he liked the director, Lloyd Bacon who had guided him through seven previous pictures, and several members of the cast. He even befriended the newest member, a young actor that Warner had high hopes for. Bernie Zanfield had appeared in a handful of other Warner films, usually uncredited, but now he had a substantial role to play. The producers wanted a screen name for him so came up with a few clunkers like Brick Bernard and Zane Clark. In later years, he gave credit to his new friend Humphrey Bogart for suggesting the name he finally adopted: Dane Clark. “Action In The North Atlantic” is his debut film under that name.

The Big Lift (1950) / George Seaton. The Berlin Air Lift lasted for one year (April 1948 to May 1949). Early in 1948, the Soviet Union blocked all ground access (road, water, and rail) to West Berlin, the only section of that part of Germany to be controlled by the allies. The allied forces undertook a massive supply mission by air to keep the West Berlin population in food and fuel. They flew over 200,000 flights keeping within an air corridor only 20 miles wide with all planes at the same altitude. Writer/director George Seaton had been in a position to observe the Lift while it was going on. Also, he was fascinated by the neo-realist films from Europe, as were others in the American film industry. This movie combines both of Seaton's interests. The movie was shot in West Berlin on the actual locations and, except for ad couple of named actors, actual servicemen were hired to play themselves whenever possible. Seaton tries to replicate the naturalistic techniques and socially conscious themes into a new American style. Seaton creates a dual character arc for two U.S. Air Force enlisted men played by Montgomery Clift and Paul Douglas. Clift plays Danny, an all-American boy from Minneapolis; Douglas is Hank, a sergeant who had been a POW of the German and still harbors a great deal of anger and hate toward them. Danny falls in love with a German woman who he wishes to rescue from the damaged city. Hank finds a German girlfriend who he callously thinks of her as good only for sex, rationalizing that if he did not use her, she would use him given the chance. There are some slow parts as Seaton takes us on a tour of rubble-strewn Berlin by following Clift as he walks around and looks at things, but overall, an interesting neo-realistic film that may teach us more about the Berlin Air Lift and the look and feel of the post-war divided city than by reading a textbook.

Conte d'été (1996) (A Summer's Tale) / Eric Rohmer. Another of Rohmer's gentle romantic comedies in a loose four film series based on the four seasons. As in so many of his films, Rohmer almost magically weaves an interesting story of people who mostly talk – about themselves, life, and love. In anyone else's hands but Rohmer's, these self-absorbed characters would be dull and annoying, but the director, who also writes all his own scripts, makes their conversations interesting to listen to. Gaspard, a student on summer holiday at the shore becomes friends with local waitress, Margot (Amanda Langlet, who played the title character in Rohmer's “Pauline On The Beach”). Gaspard is expecting his girlfriend to join him, but she is late and he is afraid she has dumped him. Margot's boyfriend is working abroad for the summer. They become friends but not lovers. Gaspard is unsure of himself and, at first, is down because he can't find another summer love. Events turn themselves around so Gaspard has too many women and not enough time. I love Rohmer's films.

The Green Prince (2014) / Nadav Schirman. A documentary based on the autobiography “Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices” by Mosab Hassan Yousef. Mosab was the son of Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef. Even though Mosab's father is considered a moderate by Hamas standards, he is nevertheless constantly monitored by the Israeli security service Shin Bet and has spent a lot of years in prison. As a young adult, Mosab was picked up multiple times by Shin Bet and, as Shin Bet always does with Palestinian detainees, asked to work for them against Hamas. Mosab did not agree and went to prison for a time where he was shocked and disillusioned when he found the other Hamas prisoners were even more ruthless and sadistic than he ever imagined Israel was. After being released, he agreed to work as an Israeli spy against his own father. He took on the code name of The Green Prince. There are only two “talking heads” in this documentary. First is Mosab himself who narrates events looking straight into the camera. The story he tells is illustrated over his words by archive footage and recreated scenes. The second narrator is Gonen Ben Yitzhak, the Shin Bet agent who was Mosab's control for most of the ten years. This is a story with more suspense and twists and turns than most fictional spy yarns.

The Two Faces of January (2014) / Hossein Amini. Chester MacFarland, a rich American tourist is in Athens with his young wife, Collette. In reality, he is a con man who escaped America with a fortune in cash he stole with an investment fraud. The couple meets Rydal, a young American working as a tour guide who gets inadvertently involved when a private detective looking for MacFarland is accidentally killed. The three go on the run to Crete looking for a way back to the United States. Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, nothing ever really comes together in this film. Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and Oscar Isaac try their best to make the material work, but even the combination of all of their considerable talents can't help the scattershot script.


Trust me. I'm The Doctor.

June 21…my weekly dropping

My weekly dropping...this time, mysteries from the 1930s:

Torchy Blane - some of these were quite lame. I really enjoyed Torchy Blane in Chinatown. I guessed correctly about part of the ending, but not all of it. Some of the other films really needed to have a bit more of a plot.

Nancy Drew - I rewatched two of these. Fun movies, based on the books. Nancy's dad was one heck of a cutie!

💕 JimHutton (1934-79) and ElleryQueen 👍

Re: What classics did you see last week? (6/15-6/21)

Had a good week of viewings last week! I'll post in order of release, and I'll include modern releases too.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
Little Caesar (1931)
The Major and the Minor (1942)
White Heat (1949)
The Birds (1962)
F For Fake (1973)
Gandhi (1982)

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Mystic River (2003)
The Secret In Their Eyes (2009)
Mr. Holmes (2015)
Jurassic World (2015)

I think White Heat takes the cake as the best first viewing of last week for me, a finely crafted gangster thriller.

More on Mr. Holmes


The Spikeopath - Hospital Number 217

Re: More on Mr. Holmes

I can't say I particularly enjoyed it to be honest! It was a film that felt like it wasn't going anywhere to me.
McKellen plays a brilliant Sherlock, and it's certainly interesting to see that later period of his life. Wonderfully shot too and has a really nice look to it but ultimately the story just seemed to plod on and I don't feel like it took you any place different with the characters than where we saw them at the start.

By all means find out for yourself and watch it though!

Re: More on Mr. Holmes

Thanks for that. I have a rare free day tomorrow and fancied going the cinema, that this has a character and an actor I greatly enjoy I was tempted. I think I'll wait for the home format release as it doesn't sound like a big screen must. But it will defo be a must see in that respect.

The Spikeopath - Hospital Number 217

White Heat, Beckham

Both White Heat and Bend in Like Beckham are terrific films.

💕 JimHutton (1934-79) and ElleryQueen 👍

The Rover Will Return Near to Paradise with Vanina

Au plus près du Paradis, Tonie Marshall, 2002. Catherine Deneuve in her 21st century incarnation, a wealthy, busy art dealer, organiser of exhibitions and collector of an assortment of unsuitable men (including Patrice Chéreau doing a sentimental drunk act), bears a secret devotion to her lost first love and to Leo McCarey's An Affair to Remember which she rewatches obsessively, weeping every time. On a trip to New York to track down the indispensable painting for her new exhibit, she convinces herself that Philippe will meet her on the Empire State Building - and, not unnaturally, is annoyed to find herself unable to shake off a brash and irritating John Hurt with whom she's obliged for business reasons to take a trip across the States. The most memorable thing about this not very memorable affair is Agnès Godard's framing of artists and their works, which stand out in what is otherwise a fairly predictable star-vehicle, which would more or less be a rom-com except that Deneuve will hardly fit into the limits of a rom-com. mixed/no. I can't stand the McCarey film either.

L'Avventuriero (The Rover), Terence Young, 1967. One of those Euro-collaborations which may be either Italian or English, where according to IMDb at least there is no available print with both versions. I tosed up and reckoned English would be more appropriate, so bought the Spanish print which included it. I wish I hadn't. The sound is creaky, the colours bleed, the focus is iffy, and I have a strong suspicion it may also be pan-and-scan. I still think English is the film's natural language, but I'd have willingly taken Italian for a decent image. Plus, I remembered too late that I've bought Italian videos of this kind in the past and found that they had the English soundtrack even though they hadn't announced the fact. Sooo - buyer beware. Maybe it's actually a fairly good swashbuckling sort of film, although it's definitely distressingly bigoted regarding the French Revolution. I have a muzzy, muggy image of it which is doing it no favours. I am intrigued, and rather impressed, however, to see Rita Hayworth in the role of a cool and collected, but not spectacularly glamorous, older woman, which is inevitably a reminder that Gilda really was an actress. mixed/no, however, aware that I'm probably doing it an injustice.

Vanina Vanini, Roberto Rossellini, 1961. This material would seem more suited to Visconti than to Rossellini, and there are indeed times when the secret, passionate, and inconvenient encounters between spoiled princess Vanina and her infatuated revolutionary lover begin to look a little like Senso. It is a large and unwieldy story, and possibly Rossellini starts by trying to tell too much too fast: it is true that the early events are rather hard to follow, and not helped by a switch in allegiance which sees the first apparent female lead, in fact Vanina's mother, appear and then withdraw from the scene without ever appearing in the same space as her daughter. (All right, I confess, I confused them, and as a result was convinced for a while that Count Vanini had sexual relations with his daughter. No doubt my poor observation is at fault, but it would have been very easy to introduce them clearly). On the other hand, there are some magnificent scenes in this early, scene-setting, action, when Rossellini can film the carbonari negotiating the streets of the city. There is a wonderfully distant and desperate chase sequence where the long shots and long takes admirably show the hiding-places the characters have at their disposal and also the confusion which they themselves experience in the labyrinth they're fleeing through. Rossellini and Stendhal may not be an obvious pairing, but he is wonderful at rendering visually the small person in the vast and chaotic context of place and history: I imagine a Rossellinian version of Fabrice at Waterloo would be the decisive vision of that subject. My impression of this, overall, is that Rossellini is more interested in the carbonari, who seem to remind him of the Resistants of the past, than he is in Vanina: Stendhal, most likely, felt the opposite. I can sympathise with Rossellini's choice, on the basis that Vanina is (undeniably) very wrong, and also that Vanina stays in her room, while Pietro is Right AND Romantic (and, being Laurent Terzieff, beautiful) and also in constant movement; but it's a rather obvious choice. Arguably, the reasons why Vanina's world is so narrow, and why she does what she does, are scarcely in her control. mixed/yes

Torneranno i prati (The Fields Will Return), Ermanno Olmi, 2014 Torneranno i prati was commissioned from Olmi as part of the ceremonies of commemoration which sprouted all over Europe last year like poppies in June. The Great War which nobody living now remembers, which has become a symbol of the Unjust War, of senseless mass slaughter (as opposed to the ‘just war' which most of Europe has managed to form out of World War II), has been a memory carved in stone since only a few years after the trenches were abandoned. Across Britain, France, Belgium, Germany and Italy , official mourning staked its place in the heart of every village. The experience was distilled into words, with various levels of dismay, by major poets who have become part of national heritage. Even the flowers which grew on the Western front have become plastic and paper emblems, ironically as ephemeral and eternal in their allotted season as their models. The war of 1914-18 still dwells in the fabric of commemoration, so how should it be commemorated again, a hundred years on ?

Olmi is 83, born in the age of memorials, but old enough to have received direct memories, from his father's emotional descriptions of his experiences of trauma and sorrow. Profoundly horrified by war, it was the memory of his father's painful engagement which determined him to accept a part in this grandiose project which was to see the film projected in some hundred countries simultaneously. His decision, he says, sprang from a wish to evoke not the war but the individual soldiers, and to offer some response to the persistently unanswered question of why they lived and died in the trenches and at the fronts. What he saw in his father, and what he translates into quiet, fragmentary images of a small tragedy in a remote place , was a harrowing of emotions much more than of bodies. ‘Può essere una guerra che uccide gli uomini ma non i sentimenti ?' [Could there be a war which kills men but not feelings?], he asked, rhetorically, in an interview with RaiNews.

Olmi was a master of Slow Cinema before the term was even invented; he has always pushed his camera into the substance of time, and it is through time that he works to relive the bitter emotional massacre of the war. Time passes for these soldiers, tired, sick, and profoundly disillusioned, in the perishing cold of a remote trench in the foothills of the Alps in winter: they know that death may come, and death does come, but death is the work of a moment; the experience of the war is formed in the quiet times, when the sentries look out across the snow and see nothing but larch-trees and passing foxes, or in the minutes in which disillusion hardens and takes shape as refusal. The world is so cold, and everyone is so tired, that all action develops as if in slow motion: gestures are weary and careful, conversations are murmurs, bitterly or sadly matured over four years of withering ideals and changing values. Even stark and drastic words of mutiny are quiet, reflective, weary, lived in the course of their expression. The sudden, explosive action which the cinema knows as war breaks into this time as negation and annihilation of experience: the instantaneous, unreflective explosions of shells and guns, whose action is pure reaction, mechanical and unfeeling. They mean nothing to the men they kill, except before, in the fear of them , or after, to the survivors in whose minds and bodies their destruction takes root and grows; and they mean very little to Olmi except as blasphemous interruptions which are perhaps the essential truth of ‘war' but are also nothing at all. They contain no time and cannot be remembered.

The film unfolds in this time of experience, but also across the time which has passed between the lives of these soldiers and our own. They are long one and we have access to their world only in flickering glimpses, almost hallucinatory, as if, in this place where once there was a war, the film crew were subject to flashbacks. First there are details - hands writing a letter, jugs and ladles hanging on the trench walls, figures moving through the bare, snow-covered, winter landscape. Then there are faces, movements, murmurs. And gradually the tensions of this particular night emerge: it is, and is not, a night like every other night of the past months and years, it will be a decisive, a final night, a night fit to haunt the place. But, as the title of the film, which is also its last line, observes, places resist haunting. When the snow has melted, the country will be green. When the war is over, the earth will forget the violence, the dead will be buried and forgotten, and the fields will return. Olmi, travelling with his crew into the remote Alpine foothills in a winter which snowed more violently than anyone expected (this was not an easy shoot; the wires and trenches set out during the day were regularly buried between shooting sessions, and important scenes had to be abandoned because the weather prevented continuity) films the trees and the snow of 2014 equal to themselves after a hundred years, but the men, the war, the human suffering are not contained in them. And so he takes it upon himself to create a haunting. He uses colour filmstock from which all colour has been drained out: shades of sepia-grey for the interiors, sharp blue-grey for the moon-flooded exteriors. Cold and weariness may rob the soldiers' lives of all colour, but it is also the fading of events long past. The earth has moved on; only in winter, at night, at full moon, its harsh black-and-white rejoins the bitterness of its past and the last lives of the soldiers buried there.

This is a bitterly beautiful film, and certainly worthy to count among the most important of film's encounters with the Great War. YES YES

Heh, when Roger The Movie Man picked up on Les Bonnes femmes the week before last, I thought the key had been found and that no one would have much trouble for a while, but apparently not. Perhaps I should have added after each one (with Bernadette Lafont in the role of..) until it clicked. Ah well. The only one to go this week was Out One: Noli me tangere, (with Bernadette Lafont in the role of Sarah) which zolaaar eventually located.

Le Roi des cons, with Bernadette Lafont in the role of Denise. OK, if you didn't have the key you weren't going to get that, I admit.

L'Effrontée (Charlotte Gainsbourg's debut), with Bernadette Lafont in the role of Léone.

Les Saisons du plaisir, with Bernadette Lafont in the role of Jeanne. I should have showed you Darry Cowl, who is absolutely memorable here.

IV was Out One: Noli me tangere as previously mentioned.

V. The Lafont season is over. Instead this map of Saudi Arabia
came from Fahrenheit 9/11

OK. Lafont won't help you any more, you're on your own.
Revision I
Friend of Millhouse recognised it from the book it was adapted from: it's Elementarteilchen or Elementary Particles. It's nasty. So misogynist that even beloved women have to be punished for their womanhood.

Revision II
Zolaaar's second try was the right try: Carry on ... up the Khyber!

Revision III
Friend of Millhouse again: Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio. It's not as bad as its reputation. He just made it much too late (at least for himself to star in it), and let all its High Moral Principles go through at first degree. Somebody should have known better. But it's still not uninteresting.

If they organise the revolution like they did this meeting, what'll happen?


I. Haven't seen the film, but read the book, is it Elementary Particles?
III. No idea why anyone would voluntarily watch this twice, but it's Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio.

There is no truth to be found hidden in the word "I".

Re: Revisions

I - yes it is.
III - it's not that bad, actually. Or perhaps it is, but it has very good intentions, which might have worked, IF... (Principally, if it hadn't been made by Benigni with Benigni, which admittedly might seem a bit fundamental, but there were ideas there which were excellent but not suited to a 50-year-old who shouts)

If they organise the revolution like they did this meeting, what'll happen?

Rev II

Carry On - Follow That Camel, perhaps?

It's Camel (nm)

The Spikeopath - Hospital Number 217

Got a better one for Rev II

Carry On - Up the Khyber!

Re: Got a better one for Rev II

I was just about to say, actually no it's not the Camel, but this one is indeed better (or so I've heard).

If they organise the revolution like they did this meeting, what'll happen?

Re: Got a better one for Rev II


The Spikeopath - Hospital Number 217

Re: The Rover Will Return Near to Paradise with Vanina

Darn, now that you say it 'L'effrontée'' does seem so glaringly obvious.

Beautiful and perspicacious thoughts on the Olmi. Added freshly to my watchlist with much anticipation.

I quite liked the trifling whimsicality and dreamy romanticism of 'Au plus près du paradis' but it's not really a film of any great substance. Not Tonie Marshall's best but relatively watchable for the two leads (who don't really gel).

That's all, folks!

1949 - 2000 - Tokyo - Horrors - Oaters - Constable

Mighty Joe Young (1949)

Listen you guys, cut out the rough stuff or I'll feed you to the lions.

Unfairly chastised in some quarters for being a kiddie friendly King Kong, Mighty Joe Young is as charming as an Autumnal day. Many of the team from King Kong reteam to make this film, and undoubtedly it's pretty much the same plotting only with a different resolution.

However, the effects work is still magical, harking back to a time when geniuses like Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen sweated buckets to make the magic move on the screen. Mighty Joe, the huge Gorilla of the title, is beautifully realised, full of expressions and emotions, he even has time for some sense of humour traits.

Action is never far away, with models and sets destroyed with brute force, while plenty of beings get flung about to emphasise the madness of it all. Narratively like Kong there's still themes of greed and ignorance, the tampering with Mother Nature a big mistake, which all leads to a thrilling finale that in turn leads to something to savour.

Kiddie Kong? Who cares! A wonderful film of skill and guile, of charm and brains. Go Joe Go! 8/10

The Bribe (1949)

I never knew a crooked road could look so straight.

The Bribe is directed by Robert Z. Leonard and written by Marguerite Roberts. It stars Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price and John Hodiak. Music is by Miklós Rózsa and cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg.

Federal agent Rigby (Taylor) is assigned to the island of Carlotta to investigate the illegal trafficking of war-surplus aircraft parts. He quickly finds out that it's not just the weather that is hot...

Frustrating! Out of MGM, The Bribe bites off more than it can chew. On one hand you have a cast guaranteed to either make you swoon or hiss at, on the other it's a cheaply staged production coasting on the star power and high end technical credits.

Everything about the piece screams out that the execs put all the money into the casting, the hiring of a master musical composer and a cinematographer of some standing. On the page, the realisation of such, it's laborious, needlessly convoluted and really rather dull. It's no surprise to find during research that Taylor himself felt it was one of the worst films he ever made! It all looks so fake, from the crude back screen projections and spliced scenes from elsewhere, to the backlot set that looks about as close to a warm tropical island as an igloo does.

On the plus side is Ruttenberg's photography, superb in contrasts and shadowy whiles (the slats are amazing), while Taylor's dry narration really engages, it's these aspects that explains why the film has found its way into some film noir bibles. Gardner and Taylor sizzle with sexuality, their on screen affair being played out for real off screen - much to the consternation of one Barbara Stanwyck. Laughton sweats and limps a lot whilst making a weasel look honourable, Price does the twirling moustache villainy he was so great at, while Hodiak shows good pathos as a drunk clearly in over his head with all aspects of his life.

Fans of the stars get good value, but this has to go down as a wasted opportunity. It failed at the box office and ultimately - in spite of some splendid film noir tints - it's not hard to see why. 5.5/10

Red Planet (2000)

Here comes a billion dollar campfire. At least it's good for something.

The second of the Mars based box office bombs released in 2000, Red Planet is maybe - just maybe - worth a revisit by some who were irritated by it back on first viewing. Once knowing that this is not going to be some action packed alien movie, that it's a survivalist drama that tips its hat to 1950s sci-fi schlock, that cares about its characters, then there's a decent popcorner experience to be had here.

This is not to say it's a genius entry in the sci-fi pantheon, because it's not, the same problems still exist; Terence Stamp is woefully under used (seriously they could have got any low paid character actor to play his role), some things either don't make sense or are left unanswered, and of course it still drags in the middle as the boys chatter away on Mars whilst Carrie Anne-Moss is up at base station fretting and suffering erectus nippleus.

Yet there's fun to be had, some nutty science marries up with nice photography and splendid set design, and the makers know what sort of picture they want to make. Where Mission to Mars sunk under the weight of its own pretensions - trying to go all elegiac and important, Red Planet nudges and winks and asks you along for the ride. So get on board and take it for what it is, a pretentious free zone with good human drama at the core. 6.5/10

Proof of Life (2000)

We're out of miracles.

Russell Crowe would of course come to be better known elsewhere (filmicly) in this year, but what of his other release in 2000? Proof of Life is a blender, a picture that is in part thriller, part romance, part drama and part observation on a very real life problem - that of kidnapping for ransom. So many genres to tackle means that invariably Taylor Hackford's film feels over stuffed, pushing the running time to two hours and fifteen minutes, it is this that hurts it. A shame because if trimmed of the pointless filler and drawn out sequences then there is a very efficient (ok, maybe routine is a better word here) and well acted piece on show. The drama and tension (sexual and perilous threat) is all building towards the action packed finale, which, while well mounted, doesn't seem an adequate pay off for the number of extended chatty scenes we have had to tolerate to get there. Nice tip of the hat to a classic at the end, though. 6/10

Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)

We've got a problem here. There are more bad guys than we've got bullets.

It's a buddy buddy action movie, one that feels more 80s than 90s, with that it has all the pluses and minuses that comes with such genre staples. Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee pair up to take on The Yakuza, Dolph has a very personal reason for tracking and killing the Yakuza leader. They are an odd pair who must get over their initial differences to complete their mission. Sound familiar? Well it is, because it can be seen in a whole host of other action buddy buddy movies.

The acting is sub-standard but the action is well constructed, which at the end of the day is what action fans require for a rollicking good time. Some of the dialogue is too cheese worthy to even pass as acceptable - and this in a genre that often demands it as a requisite, while the overt homoerotic undercurrents are either meant as tongue in cheek? Or an attempt by the makers to make some sort of action movie statement?

Is it fun? Absolutely, and that's not just because of the ridiculous trousers Lundgren often wears (seriously, a leather jacket and Oxford bags?), while the colour photography is sparkling (Mark Irwin), but you have to have a taste for corn and cheese to get the most from this host. 5/10

The Wild Westerners (1962)

Gunpowder & Gold!

The Wild Westerners is directed by Oscar Rudolph and written by Gerald Drayson Adams. It stars James Philbrook, Nancy Kovack, Duane Eddy and Guy Mitchell. Music is by Ross DiMaggio and Eastman Color cinematography is by Gordon Avil.

It is what it is, a traditional Western made with a modest budget that tries to do the best it can. It's 1864 in the Montana Territory and some outlaw types are easily robbing gold shipments. How come it's so easy? This is something Marshal McDowell (Philbrook) and his trusty team must try to answer before it's too late - especially since the Marshal's newly "acquired" bride (Kovack) is becoming a key figure.

Oddly enough there is quite a bit going on here for a "C" grade production, though the core thematic drive involves outlaws who are made known to us from the off, rendering the shifty - cum - mysterious shenanigans around town as kind of redundant! There's also a thread that involves trying to keep the Cheyenne off of the war path, a burgeoning romance that has the most auspicious of beginnings, and some jealousies and macho posturings. The acting is a mixed bag of the average and the poor, the production value a blend of the nice (outdoor photography at Lone Pine) and the cheap (wonky and poorly designed sets), while there are no surprises in store off of the page. Yet there are far worse Westerns out there that had bigger budgets, it's brisk and has good action, a couple of good guy/bad guy characters to cheer and boo respectively, and Duane Eddy's title guitar music is quality.

Not one to rush out to see, but some charm and minor qualities stop it from being in stinker hell. 5/10

The Bounty Killer (1965)

The Pharisees

The Bounty Killer is directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and written by Ruth Alexander and Leo Gordon. It stars Dan Duryea, Rod Cameron, Audrey Dalton, Richard Arlen, Buster Crabbe, Fuzzy Knight and Johnny Mack Brown. Music is by Ronald Stein and cinematography by Frederick E. West.

Willie Duggans (Duryea) arrives in the Wild West and quickly becomes exposed to its violence. Finding that big money can be made by bringing in bad guys, he takes up arms and plans to make enough money to set him up for a future with Carole Ridgeway (Dalton), a beautiful saloon singer. But the job isn't easy, physically, emotionally and mentally.

It's a film that asks some forgiveness from Western fans, you are asked to accept Duryea being too old for the role, some iffy production issues, coincidences and some giant leaps of faith. Yet if you can do that and just roll with its high energy willingness to keep the Western traditional in the mid 60s? Then this is better than a time waster.

Ultimately it's a message movie about the cycle of violence and how said violence can corrupt the most amiable of minds. The screenplay deftly brings in to the equation the roles of normal outsiders who don't mind violence as long as it is for their own ends, something which brings the best sequence in the film to the fore and lets Duryea once again show his class. Backing the superb Duryea is a roll call of Western movie veterans, all of which - with the leading man - make for a reassuring presence at our Oater dinner table. Neatly photographed out of the Corriganville and Glenmoor ranches in California, this may be a "B Western" trying to keep the traditional Western afloat in the mid 60s, but it's honourable in intent and entertains the Western faithful royally. 7/10

Zombeavers (2014)

Why did the Beaver cross the road?

If you are sitting down to watch a film called Zombeavers - and reading any sort of synopsis out there - then you should know what you are getting into. It's going to be tacky, cheeky, bonkers, perhaps cheap and firmly aimed at a section of the horror movie faithful who enjoy such nutty and bloody delights.

Zombeavers is not a great film of course, but for the sub-genre of horror it sits in it's actually better than many bigger comedy/horror productions that have been churned out in the last three decades. Don't get me wrong, it's no Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, but there's a whole bunch of fun to be had watching the makers purposely tick of the clichés and requisite requirements for such cinematic fare. Some adroit gags exist in among the the booby flesh and animatronic chaos, with the dialogue often as razor sharp as the teeth on the disturbed genus Castor beings.

It is never going to be making any horror fan's best of list, and only the infected of mind would heartily recommend it as a must see. But it is a fun picture if you are in the mood to leave your brain at the Beaver Lodge. 6/10

Solo (2013)

Camp Dread?

Young girl has a past trauma to deal with, so she applies to be a camp counsellor. Nice. But to pass the entry exam for being said counsellor she has to spend two nights alone on a remote island, thus proving her metal. Amazingly she's not as alone as is meant to be...

OK! The premise is weak, both in terms of logic and redundancy of formula, but that isn't a problem for those after a good compact scare picture to pass the time of day with. The trouble with Alone (AKA: Solo) is that it's just too dull for its own good, resorting to telegraphed boo-jumps at time scripted junctures. After a while you kind of find yourself wishing it had something more to offer on a psychological basis. The reveal of the threat is tedious, the execution of the last quarter equally so, but the performance of young Annie Clark in the lead and some efficient chill moments makes this just about passable as a time waster. 5/10

Carry on Constable (1960)

The first milestone Carry On movie.

A flu epidemic has reduced the local police station down to a skeleton crew. Hope arrives in the form of four recruits - - that's no hope mind you...

Carry On Constable introduced the wonderful Sid James to the series, he would become one of the most beloved actors to Carry On film fans. Ironically "Constable" finds James somewhat removed from the type of character he would become known for, it's a restrained role and showcases his acting abilities as an official figure type, the glue binding the whole play together.

The fourth film in the Carry On series retains the more genteel comedy factors that had imbued the previous three outings, though this would be the first to show nudity! Four policemen's bums gleaming bright! A scene that provides a splendid anecdote in Kenneth Williams brilliant book, Just Williams (I urge anyone interested in classic film/TV/radio/stage to check it out).

Plot basically pitches the four recruits, Williams, Leslie Phillips, Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Connor (brilliant as usual as a superstitious sort) into a number of chaotic physical situations mined for laughs. Back at the station Sgt. Frank Wilkins (James) is pulling his hair out at the ineptitude of his new charges - and that of his ignoramus boss, Inspector Mills (Eric Barker). Joan Sims is on hand to steam the collar of Kenny Connor, just as Phillips lusts after any female form, while Hattie Jaques provides a glimpse of her tender character acting side as the station's sensible soul.

There's some drag dressings played for good laughs, a whole bunch of scenes where the not so intrepid coppers get taken for fools, and a few deftly scripted lines guaranteed to raise a smile. Elsewhere there's a raft of super character actors in cameos who beautifully portray the classic eccentricities of the Brits of the era, so take a bow Irene Handl, Esma Cannon and Joan Hickson (wonderful as a posh drunken lush). Never riotous or bawdy, "Constable" is still a fondly thought of entry in the long running series, as are most of the black and white productions. It shows a group of film makers very much of the time and using it to the max. Lovely. 8/10

The Spikeopath - Hospital Number 217

Red Planet

There's an anti-scientific current running through Red Planet, which apparently translated into the writers refusing to open a high-school physics textbook.
So we get Carrie-Anne Moss rotating a large satellite with her bare hands (weightless does not mean massless) and the castaways on Mars taking off their helmets and being surprised the air is breathable: it's not very hard to measure the atmosphere on Mars even with present technology, so it's pretty ludicrous to assume a future space agency would send people out there without any idea of oxygen levels.

Of course, Mission to Mars was even worse.

2000 had two sci-fi Mars-movies that were terrible at the science, and not very good at the fiction either.

There is no truth to be found hidden in the word "I".

Oh the science is lobotomised for sure!

Thing with Red Planet is that it very early on lets us know this is a brain at the door sci-fi popcorn piece, I mean once they crash on Mars they have 16 minutes air left!! And still an hour of film to go. Your points are valid, and very much in keeping with my reaction when I first saw it back on release. Mission to Mars thinks it's being smart, but it's not even close.

Of course Total Recall is the template for Mars science fiction movies

The Spikeopath - Hospital Number 217

Re: 1949 - 2000 - Tokyo - Horrors - Oaters - Constable

Glad you got to see Mighty Joe Young and liked it Spike. It's a good film with great effects.

Go to bed Frank or this is going to get ugly .

Re: 1949 - 2000 - Tokyo - Horrors - Oaters - Constable

It was smashing, maddy, a real tip-o-the-hat to an era of film making that deserves constant plaudits.

I swear I couldn't stop laughing when Joe spits at the baddies out the back of the truck Then of course the Orphanage scenes, where I found myself on the edge of my seat

The Spikeopath - Hospital Number 217

Ron Howard's 'Rush'

Talk about 'game of two halves': this was more a film of two halves, or even 'race of two halves', albeit that even the better half wasn't entirely satisfying.

I would've been shocked if I'd seen the director's name on the opening credits because up until 'redemption' - the scene where we see the recovering Niki Lauda watch from his hospital bed as nemesis, James Hunt, start to claw back his World Championship lead, this was decidely 'amateur hour' stuff - especially in dialogue, editing, and abuse of budget. This was the point where director Howard seemed to realise there are more effective ways than hackneyed dialogue to tell a story of bitter rivalry between the two men.

I'd recalled that crash as if it was yesterday because in pre-cable days 'Formula One' was a big deal to those of us who are more spoiled for choice, now, and the sport seems bereft of the personalities - and the evangelistic fervour of commentators such as the famously-hysterical Murray Walker.

I didn't know much about Niki Lauda's personality other than that he was a driven man - even before that Nurburgring crash; I obviously knew more about James Hunt's tabloid personality, but always considered him to be somebody who would lack the temperament for the long-haul, and so it proved. Hunt's image was probably cleaned up, somewhat, for this screenplay - perhaps at Lauda's insistence, but the point was well-made of the contrast between dour, Teutonic efficiency, and feckless, if talented, upper-class fecklessness. Difficult to choose sides, but I'd always remembered Niki Lauda with fondness - particularly for the way he'd hauled himself back from the brink.
Aside from those telling, post-Nurburgring side-on close-up perspective of the two drivers, the technically-impressive, stunningly-shot Japanese GP segment made one wonder about what might have been.

One for 'Room 101' tape-over Hell

"Where's the rest of me??... Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.!"

Behind Locked Doors(1948)

Ross Stewart(Richard Carlson)is a private investigator who's hired by reporter Kathy Lawrence(Lucille Bremer)to find a corrupt judge. Kathy believes the judge is being hidden at a local sanatorium, she asks Ross to pretend to be a manic depressive so he's admitted to the sanatorium, once inside it's hoped he can locate the judge.

I have to say that I found the way they go about finding the judge really interesting and also quite a risk. Carlson who I've liked a lot since seeing him in The Creature From The Black Lagoon really impressed me in this. How come he never became a much bigger star? I've never heard of Lucille before seeing her in this and am going to look for more of her films

Go to bed Frank or this is going to get ugly .

Re: What classics did you see last week? (6/15-6/21)

Sunset (1988) - 7/10

Focus Sunshine Hitchcock.

Reviews have plot details.


For his first appearance this decade in a non-Sci-Fi/Fantasy movie,Will Smith gives a shining performance as Nicky Spurgeon,with Smith giving Spurgeon a charismatic swagger which allows for Spurgeon to play the long-con with the viewer.Along with his charming swagger,Smith also displays a keen grasp on knowing when to inject tension into Spurgeon,which helps to give the film a delightfully playful edge.Joining Smith,the very pretty Margot Robbie gives a very good performance as Barrett,as Robbie shows Barrett's nervous excitement to the art of conning,whilst a fantastic B.D. Wong steals the movie from Smith & Robbie with his zany energy as the to-be-conned Liyuan.

Backed by a rolling Rock soundtrack, (which at one point,cleverly fits into a superb twist)writers/directors Glenn Ficarra & John Requa bask the title in an stylish,elegant sheen,thanks to the directors covering the movie in glass,which brilliantly shows the characters being unable to see the "reflection" of the con taking place.Perfectly matching the eye-catching mirrors,the directors reveal each stage of the cons with excellent,long tracking shots,which allow the audience to see every underhanded tactic used in the cons.Whilst the film has a well- designed appearance,the screenplay by Ficarra & Requa is never able to keep up with the visual charms of the title.

Running for just under 2 hours,the writers leave the characters feeling rather hollow,with their attempts to go into Spurgeon background lacking clarity,and Barrett being left completely bare.During the setting up of each job,the writers appear uncertain over how to make each of Spurgeon/Barrett's cons feel like a coherent build up to the finally big game.Which leads to this being a fun film,that sadly lacks focus.

Little Miss Sunshine

Backed by a shimmering score from Mychael Danna DeVotchKa,husband & wife directing duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris give the film a charmingly breezy appearance,thanks to the directors making yellow a prominent colour,which allows for the darkly comedic scenes to have an underlying sweetness.Slowly building up to hilarious slap-stick set pieces,the directors brilliantly underplay the Black Comedy build up,with awkward silences being kept in the air,as each family member discovers how they could make their lives sunnier.

Filling up the micro-bus with an entire family,the screenplay by Michael Arndt cleverly makes sure to give each of the characters their distinctive ,stand out moment,from Dwayne breaking his vow of silence,to Olive finding her grove.Although the movie does slow down as the family start to go off the road,Arndt keeps a keen eye on making the 800 mile journey one filled with sharp turns,thanks to the title smoothly moving between the darkly comedic dramatic flaws of the characters,and the left-field slap-stick set pieces.

Filming the role just before he became famous, Steve Carell gives a brilliant performance as Frank Ginsberg,with Carell giving the events that led to Ginsberg attempted suicide a firm seriously grip,whilst hitting each one liner with a wicked sardonic bite.Sending all the family (and future Breaking Bad co-stars Bryan Cranston & Dean Norris) Abigail Breslin gives a wonderful performance which stays away from being twee or sickly sweet thanks to Breslin giving Olive a real sense of curiosity over the beauty contest and what troubles her family are facing,as they each find their own piece of Little Miss Sunshine.

Stage Fright

Despite Hitchcock saying that the (still) controversial twist in Whitfield Cook/Alma Reville/James Bridie & Ranald MacDougall adaptation of Selwyn Jepson novel Man Running was his "Second biggest film mistake" the twist actually sums up the themes in the film in a perfect manner.With mistrust being right at the centre,from Gill trying to keep her real motives hidden from Inwood,to Gill's dad suspecting the Cooper is not giving the full story on the blood stained dress.

Going against the grain of Hitchcock's traditional "man on the run",the writers instead push all the guys to the side lines,in order to make this a gripping women on the run,as Gill's attempts to keep her true motive hidden from Inwood leads to Gill having to take increasingly desperate measures,in order to keep both sides of her life separate from each other.Making sure that the movie does not solely rely on its sting,the writers build a superb menacing Film Noir atmosphere,which creeps across the screen as Gill's desire for the facts to change tightens its grip.

Perfectly setting the mood by raising the curtain on London,Hitchcock & cinematographer Wilkie Cooper push the viewer into the fractured psychological issues facing the characters with dazzlingly low-lit,tightly held shots,which allow the viewer to witness the moment when the "truth" tears Gill apart and leaves Cooper's image completely shattered. Emphasizing the dark uneasy mood,Hitchcock covers the film in ultra-stylised tracking shots,which along with revealing the dark corners of the stage that Cooper & Gill hide in,also subtly expose Gill's belief that she and Cooper are both on the same track.

Lighting up the title the moment she steps on stage,the alluring Marlene Dietrich gives an excellent performance that hits a perfect mix of Femme Fatale & upper-crust Diva.Along with reaching the high notes in the movies catchy songs,Dietrich keeps Inwood pouring with slick charisma,which leads to Inwood showing no weaknesses,when Gill confronts her with the "truth".Going in the other direction to Dietrich,a pretty Jane Wyman gives a great performance as Gill,thanks to Wyman giving Gill a strong determination over clearing Cooper's name,which Wyman gradually shows to crumble,as Gill uncovers the real events behind the murder.Joining the girls, Alastair Sim gives a performance flowing with charm as Gill's nervous dad,whilst Richard Todd shows Cooper's calm manner to be a hollow shell,which shatters as he exits,stage death.

Devils mills

Despite not featuring a single line of audio or subtitled dialogue,writer/director Jirí Trnka makes sure that the voice of the movie comes out loud & clear,with the 20 minute running time speeding pass as Trnka unwraps his enchanting Gothic folk tale world.For the distinctive appearance of the puppets,Trnka gives them a splendid,intimate stop-motion animation feel,with the man's face being immaculately detailed,and the old mill being packed with fascinating odds & ends as the devil turns the mill.


For the screenplay of the film,writers Tamara Hovey & Robert Hardy Andrews place Bagdad into separate tribes,who despite wearing different costumes are never clearly defined,which leads to all of the tribes being rather jumbled up.Whilst they fail to draw clear lines in the sand for the tribes,the writers make sure the movie speeds by with delightfully bonkers elements,which go from Marjan offering an Arabian take on "girl power",to The Black Robes darting across the screen like mystic ninjas.

Filmed on the studio back lot,director Charles Lamont & cinematographer Russell Metty use sweeping crane shots to fully display the vibrancy of the various tribes.Along with the smoothly- handled sweeps,Lamont cooks up a charming mythical atmosphere,thanks to Lamont splashing dazzling red,green and blues across the characters palaces and costumes,which act as the perfect contrast to the dry,sandy desert.

Twirling his beard in the opening scene (talk about subtle!) Vincent Price gives a wickedly sharp performance as boo-hiss baddie,as Price sends the movie in a completely off-road direction,by having Nadim slap anyone who offers the slightest disagreement with him,and for some unexplained reason,keeping his right eye shut for the entire movie.Delivering 3 sweet,if rather forgettable songs on the soundtrack,the very pretty Maureen O'Hara gives a terrific performance as Marjan,with O'Hara giving Marjan a feisty edge,which superbly bounces off the cartoon baddie action from Price,which makes this a magical visit to Bagdad.

Re: Focus Sunshine Hitchcock.

Stage Flight is lesser Hitch but still fair dinkum fun. I didn't bother weading your weview, Chris, but I is sure you provided an adequate wun-down of events.

God Save the King

Hochbaum, Dudow, Geissendörfer, Ottinger, Farocki, Berry, Greenaway,…

Hi zetes and Everyone,

Horror (and fantastique)- related viewings last week (in bold)

A batch from Germany:

Razzia in St. Pauli (Raid in St. Pauli, 1932) - Werner Hochbaum. 9/10
Kuhle Wampe oder: Wem gehört die Welt? (To Whom Does the World Belong?, 1932) - Slatan Dudow. 10/10
Jonathan (1970) - Hans W. Geissendörfer. 9/10
Bildnis einer Trinkerin. Aller jamais retour (Portrait of a Female Drunkard. Ticket of No Return, 1979) - Ulrike Ottinger. 9/10
Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik (Workers Leaving the Factory, 1995) - Harun Farocki. 10/10

Nightmare USA - the 40s:

The Mad Doctor (1940) - Tim Whelan. 8/10
Among the Living (1941) - Stuart Heisler. 7/10
The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946) - Arthur Lubin. 6/10
Repeat Performance (1947) - Alfred L. Werker. 8/10
The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947) - Felix E. Feist. 8/10
Shed No Tears (1948) - Jean Yarbrough. 8/10
Bodyguard (1948) - Richard Fleischer. 8/10
Trapped (1949) - Richard Fleischer. 6/10
Shockproof (1949) - Douglas Sirk. 8/10
Tension (1949) - John Berry. 9/10
The Threat (1949) - Felix E. Feist. 8/10
Flamingo Road (1949) - Michael Curtiz. 8/10
The Window (1949) - Ted Tetzlaff. 8/10 (2nd viewing)

Peter Greenaway triple-treat:

The Falls (1980) - Peter Greenaway. 10/10 (2nd viewing)
Making a Splash (1984) - Peter Greenaway. 10/10
Darwin (1992) - Peter Greenaway. 8/10

Lazy Notes:

5 favorites: The Falls; Making a Splash; Workers Leaving the Factory; To Whom Does the World Belong?; Portrait of a Female Drunkard. Ticket of No Return;

5 performances (female): Audrey Totter (Tension); June Vincent (Shed No Tears); Joan Crawford (Flamingo Road); Gina Falckenberg (Raid in St. Pauli); (tie) Tabea Blumenschein & Lutze & Nina Hagen & Magdalena Montezuma (Portrait of a Female Drunkard. Ticket of No Return) & Joan Leslie (Repeat Performance) & Gale Sondergaard (The Spider Woman Strikes Back);

5 performances (male): Lawrence Tierney (The Devil Thumbs a Ride & Bodyguard); Richard Basehart (Repeat Performance & Tension); Charles McGraw (The Threat); Basil Rathbone & Martin Kosleck (The Mad Dcotor); (tie) Barry Sullivan (Tension) & Albert Dekker (Among the Living) & Johnstone White (Shed No Tears) & Sydney Greenstreet (Flamingo Road) & Bobby Driscoll (The Window);

5 visuals: Mike Coles (The Falls (w/ John Rosenberg) & Making a Splash (w/ Michael Gemel & David Spears)); Günther Krampf (To Whom Does the World Belong?); Robby Müller (Jonathan); Ulrike Ottinger (Portrait of a Female Drunkard. Ticket of No Return); (tie) Reiner van Brummelen & Chris Renson (Darwin) & Ted McCord (Flamingo Road) & Robert De Grasse & William O. Steiner (The Window) & L. William O'Connell (Repeat Peformance);

5 scores: Michael Nyman (Making a Splash & The Falls); Hanns Eisler (To Whom Does the World Belong?); Roland Kovac (Jonathan); Peer Raben (Portrait of a Female Drunkard. Ticket of No Return); (tie) George Antheil (Repeat Peformance) & Max Steiner (Flamingo Road) & Roy Webb (The Window);

The Michael Nyman Band performing live (still, after all these years I've seen them - in 1991 -, one of the greatest concerts I've ever attended), an excerpt from "Water Dances", originally composed for Greenaway's 'Making a Splash', the director's most joyful, sensual and celebratory film:



Hi jd,with having recently re-watched his wonderful Mandingo,I was just wondering about how your Fleischer double bill went?


Re: Fleischer.

Hi morrison!

Although those two Fleischer - 'Bodyguard' and 'Trapped' - are not my favorites of the four Noir entries he made in 1949 (I vastly prefer 'The Clay Pigeon' and particularly, 'Follow Me Quietly'), there are nevertheless a few things to savor in them; 'Bodyguard' has Lawrence Tierney's charisma in a benign and sympathetic role, yet still rough, tough, and no-nonsense), Fleischer's tight, muscular direction, and some suspenseful setpieces,(one, in an optometrist's office, constructed with nerve-racking assurance). The ending, thrilling as it is, feels a bit rushed though.

I confess that 'Trapped' was a disappointment, tepid and unmemorable, with a rather dullish docudrama feeling which occasionally feels like propaganda for the Treasury Department, plus some talky, dire police procedurals along the way, and uninteresting double-crosses and twists. There's a good performance from Lloyd Bridges (yet he completely disappears from the final reel, leaving an even more noticeable void in the film), and a spectacularly brutal, very convincing hand fight between Bridges and John Hoyt in a seedy hotel room, brilliantly staged by Fleischer. And there's Barbara Payton's beauty for eye candy value too. In all honesty though, I think I would prefer to go through a second viewing of Fleischer's 'The Jazz Singer', than be 'Trapped' again, god help me!


Re: Hochbaum, Dudow, Geissendörfer, Ottinger, Farocki, Berry, Greenaway,

I assume this isn't the first time you've seen'Kuhle Wampe', but do please comment, on the film or anything else which Brecht may inspire you to comment on ...

If they organise the revolution like they did this meeting, what'll happen?

Re: What classics did you see last week? (6/15-6/21)

The Last Picture Show - I still rate it 9/10 with fine acting and great b/w cinematography.

Re: What classics did you see last week? (6/15-6/21)

'Riot In A Women's Prison' (1974, Prigione di donne - Brunello Rondi)

Interesting W.I.P. flick about a jailhouse run by strict nuns that's gripped by rebellion and the outrageous tactics used against rioters. As you'd expect from Brunello Rondi, this is a fiercely intelligent picture with plenty of political points to ponder.

'Werewolf Woman' (1976, La lupa mannara - Rino Di Silvestro)

Full Moon Pictures have released a fine print of this furry fright flick about a cursed wolfen woman who has bad dreams.

'Boyhood' (2014 - Richard Linklater)

Exceptional drama about becoming a man.

Damion Cook R.I.P.